Changes to barrel hydration practices is one of the easiest ways to achieve low-cost water savings within the winery.
Case Study: Barrel Hydration at Stratus
Stratus had identified hydration as a significant source of water use, both for barrels and for their large oak fermenters. They had already changed their practice of filling the barrels to a standard procedure using 10 litres of water to hydrate one end and then flipping the barrel. However, the large fermenters posed a more challenging problem.
Typically, a hose with a spray ball was inserted into the fermenter and left running until the oak swelled and sealed all leaks. This was once-through water that went straight to the drain. While investigating options, Stratus noticed that the bottom of the fermenter sealed first and would fill with water while the rest of the oak continued to hydrate. By attaching a hose to the fermenter once the bottom sealed, they were able to recirculate this water to the spray ball in order to complete the hydration.
Stratus’ next step was to find a way to capture the initial water that leaked out the bottom of the fermenter for recirculation. Using trays and totes, this water was collected and hydration was turned into a closed-loop process where one small batch of water could be used to hydrate multiple fermenters.
Inspect barrels prior to hydration
Before hydrating barrels, check for leaks to see if swelling is even required. Add a small amount of water to the barrel and rotate to detect leaks.
This water can be reused to test additional barrels for leaks.
Use only enough water to soak the end of a barrel
When swelling barrels, wineries only need to use a small amount of water (approximately 10-20 litres) to fully soak one end of the barrel. Once one end has been soaked, the barrel can be flipped to soak the other end.
For large oak fermenters that are hydrated with a continuous water spray, capture the water that leaks out of the fermenter and recirculate it instead of allowing it to flow straight to the drain. This water can be reused to hydrate multiple fermenters.
Hydrate multiple barrels consecutively
Hydrating multiple barrels together can be significantly more water efficient than hydrating them one at a time since water used in one barrel can be reused to hydrate multiple barrels.
Leave barrels wrapped
Leaving new barrels wrapped until they are ready to be used can help maintain moisture and reduce the need for hydration, saving both time and water.